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Treatment

How Is Melanoma Treated?

Several factors come into play when determining the best skin cancer treatment options. Factors include the type and stage of the cancer, the size of the tumor and where it is located, and the patient’s general health and medical history. The Melanoma Program at BMC provides coordinated, rapid access to treatment for all stages of melanoma.

The goal of treatment is to remove or destroy the cancer completely. Most melanomas are potentially curable if they are caught and treated early by removing them in their entirety. In these cases, no further treatment is necessary.

There are several treatment options available for patients with melanoma. These include:

Surgery

The most common treatment for melanoma is a surgical procedure called a wide local excision. During this procedure the melanoma is completely removed together with a margin of the surrounding healthy skin. How much healthy skin is removed depends on the depth of the growth. The margin is examined under a microscope for any remaining cancer cells. If no cancer cells are found, no further surgery is necessary. Many times, a wide local excision can cure early-stage melanoma.

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Treatment for Advanced Metastatic Disease

The term metastatic disease refers to disease that has spread from its original site to distant organs in the body. At this advanced stage of the disease, it is unlikely that surgery can be used to cure the cancer, although it may be used to improve a patient’s quality of life and help him or her live more comfortably.

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Drugs that target melanomas carrying BRAF gene mutations

BRAF is a human gene that makes a protein called B-Raf. When the BRAF gene mutates, it can lead to various types of cancer. BRAF mutations in melanomas cause the BRAF protein produced by the gene to be considerably more effective, which makes melanoma cells grow and divide more quickly and provides a survival advantage to the melanoma.

Drugs that target melanomas carrying C-KIT gene mutations

Mast/stem cell growth factor receptor (SCFR) is a protein in humans that is encoded by the KIT gene. Active mutations in this gene are associated with a small percentage of melanomas. C-KIT mutations also help the melanoma cells to grow and divide more quickly. The mutations are commonly found in melanomas that originate on the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, or underneath the fingernails (called acral melanomas); inside the mouth or other mucosal (wet) areas; and on parts of the body chronically exposed to the sun.

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